The sizzling New England Patriots looks for their eighth straight win when they host NFC powerhouse San Francisco in a battle royale on Sunday night. The Patriots continue to knock off challengers with ease while steadily climbing the ladder in the AFC standings. Once 1-2 on the season, New England looks to gain the top seed in the AFC to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. After embarrassing Houston on Monday night, it stamped itself as the best team in the conference.
The 49ers have been a bit inconsistent since inserting the speedy Colin Kaepernick under center. Kaepernick, who is 3-1 as a starter since replacing Alex Smith at quarterback, sealed last week's 27-13 win over Miami with a 50-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. RB Frank Gore, who went over the 1,000-yard mark in the game, continues to provide San Francisco with balance on offense but it’s clearly the Niners’ defense which makes them a Super Bowl threat. That unit ranks second in the NFL in total defense.
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Patriots -5.5, O/U 46.5
ABOUT THE 49ERS (9-3-1): Expect San Francisco to try to control the ball against the Patriots, who are the runaway leader in the NFL with 475 points scored. That could mean a big workload for Gore, who tied Roger Craig and Joe Perry for the franchise mark with his 50th career rushing touchdown last week. The 49ers rank second in the NFL in rushing, averaging over 160 yards a game on the ground, to take a lot of the pressure off the shoulders of Kaepernick. A week after Kaepernick struggled in a 16-13 overtime loss at St. Louis, the second-year pro went for 18-for-23 with a 100.2 passer rating. Aldon Smith continues to be a menace on defense and set the team mark with two more sacks against the Dolphins to give him 19.5 on the season.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (10-3): Tom Brady picked apart Houston last week, throwing four more touchdown passes, and stamped himself as the leader in the MVP race. Brady is tied for the NFL lead in passer rating and threw a pair of TD passes to tight end Aaron Hernandez, whose immense talent has allowed tight end Rob Gronkowski to recover from a broken forearm at his own pace. New England humiliated the Texans, who before the game labeled it as the biggest game in their franchise’s history. The Patriots, who are accustomed to playing big games, raced out to a 21-0 lead on the way to a 42-14 romp. New England continues to roll through the second half of recent seasons. The three-time Super Bowl champs have won 20 straight games at home in December.
1. San Francisco is 4-2 on the road. New England is 5-1 at home.
2. Brady has 29 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season. He has thrown a TD pass in 45 straight games, the third-longest streak in history.
3. The 49ers suspended little-used RB Brandon Jacobs for the rest of the season.
PREDICTION: 49ers 24, Patriots 21
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Key Players to Watch
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New England Patriots
- Personalday-to-day | questionable
White has missed the last two games as he was away from the team due to a death in the family. It is unknown if he will return to the fold against the Chiefs in Week 4.
- AnkleOut indefinitely | I-R
Uche has been ticketed for the injured reserve list with an ankle injury, and it is uncertain when the team will activate him.
- Neckday-to-day | questionable
Keene has been held out of the past three games due to a neck injury, and it is unclear if he will make his season debut Week 4 versus the Chiefs.
- ThumbOut indefinitely | I-R
Andrews has been entered on the injured reserve list while he is mend from surgery to repair a broken thumb on his right hand. There is no timetable for recovery.
- CalfQues Sun | questionable
Wynn has a calf injury, and it has yet to be established if he will be on the field for Sunday's battle with the Raiders.
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Dugger is hobbled by an ankle injury, and it is uncertain if he will be a participant in Sunday's game versus the Raiders.
- ShoulderQues Sun | questionable
Butler is dealing with a shoulder injury, and it is unknown if he will suit up against the Raiders on Sunday.
- KneeProb Sun | probable
Copeland is nursing a knee injury, but he is likely to be on the field Sunday against the Raiders.
San Francisco 49ers
- Hamstringday-to-day | questionable
Witherspoon missed the last game with a hamstring injury, and it is up in the air if he will be active on Week 4 versus the Eagles.
- FootOut indefinitely | I-R
Samuel has ended up on the injured reserve list recovering from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his foot. Although he is targeting a return against the Dolphins in Week 5, it is unknown when the team will activate him.
- Concussionday-to-day | questionable
Moseley departed the previous game due to a concussion, and it has yet to be established if he will be cleared in time for Week 4 versus the Eagles.
- Ribsday-to-day | questionable
McKinnon has injured ribs, and there is no indication if it will keep him out of the lineup in Week 4 versus the Eagles.
- Quadricepday-to-day | questionable
Nzeocha was taken out of the previous game due to a quad injury, and it is up in the air if he will suit up against the Eagles during Week 4.
- Kneeday-to-day | questionable
Kittle has missed the past two games due to a knee sprain, and it is unclear if he will return Week 4 versus the Eagles.
- Kneeday-to-day | questionable
Mostert sat out the previous game with a mild sprain of the MCL in his knee, and it is unknown if he will play against the Eagles in Week 4.
- KneeOut indefinitely | I-R
Reed has been added to the injured reserve list due to a sprained MCL in his left knee. It is uncertain when the team will activate him.